Stop Pacifying Preschoolers
If your child's heading to preschool this year and is still using a pacifier, now's the time to work with your child to drop the "binkey."
Thousands of parents rely on pacifiers to calm and soothe a fussy baby. For children under the age of 1, the continuous sucking action is normal and healthy.
However, if parents allow children to continue using a pacifier into toddler years, this action becomes habit instead of a natural instinct and can be detrimental to a child's oral health.
"Prolonged pacifier use can impede the natural development of teeth, the jaw and normal palate formation," says Academy of General Dentistry spokesperson Julie Ann Barna, DMD, MAGD. "For a child with several baby teeth, pacifier use can cause upper teeth to protrude and lower teeth to jut in."
In addition to moving and shifting teeth, studies show that pacifier users are more likely to suffer from acute middle ear infections. "Continuous sucking on a pacifier causes the auditory tubes to open abnormally, allowing secretions from the throat to seep into the middle ear," says Dr. Barna. "This makes the ears more susceptible to infection-causing bacteria."
Researchers have found no physiological reason why children should be allowed a pacifier past the age of 1, and report a trend that many prolonged pacifier users become prolonged thumb suckers after the pacifier is taken away, adding to a child's risk of damaging the natural position of the teeth.
For the health and proper development of your child, Dr. Barna agrees that parents should drop the pacifier by the child's first birthday and recommends "trading-in" the pacifier for "sippy cups," which promote the development of hand-eye coordination and help break the sucking habit.
Updated: February 2007